I posted this article to my Facebook wall that garnered some great discussion- the topic was balance, and if it exists.
The article argues that of these 5 things: family, sleep, work, friendships and exercise- you can only do 3 well. The other 2 will suffer.
Based on observing my own life I would have to agree with this 3/5 premise. In my life currently sleep is always the area I let suffer, despite my desire to wake up early.
So what gives? Are we doomed to always live lives that are out of whack? Does balance not exist and is the pursuit of it futile?
After running a business for 8 years and having 5 kids during 6 of those years, I would agree- expecting a 50/50 split, or trying to pursue equal distribution of time between work, family, exercise, friends and rest is just not realistic.
I prefer my friend Mona Corwin's definition of balance- which is that balance is achieved when attention is given at the proper amount in the proper place at the proper time.
This definition of balance resonates so well with me, and is definitely more attainable- there are always going to be seasons where work might need more attention, or family might need more attention. But even with adjusted expectations, the pursuit of balance and succeeding at it all can be pretty challenging. Here are a few of my strategies, to borrow Michael Hyatt's phrase, to win at work and succeed at life and balance "it all":
1. Schedule your most important priorities first, and actually keep those appointments
I have done Michael Hyatt's 5 days to your best year ever course 2 years in a row, and exercise was on the list of goals for the year both times. I had high hopes to exercise 3 times a week, go to bed early and eat healthy. I would block off the time in my calendar to work out in the morning and put my clothing out the night before. But my challenge was, I would never keep the appointments. I would come up with a million reasons why I should not work out and cancel these appointments I had made with myself to get healthy. So towards the end of 2015, I took drastic measures and I hired a personal trainer who comes to my house. I can't exactly cancel on her when she is standing in my living room- and the results have been amazing. To illustrate this point in another area, every Tuesday morning I participate in a program for my three youngest kids at our local community centre. I adore the time I get to spend with my kids in this interactive play group we attend. It's marked as a recurring appointment in my calendar and I schedule work around it.
The key is to spend this time on paper before it gets spent for you. In an ideal world I would schedule components from each of the 5 pillars mentioned above- work, family, sleep, friendships and exercise, not in equal amounts but in amounts appropriate to whatever season of life you are in- with intention. And then actually keep the appointment, regardless if it's an appointment only you are attending.
2. Remember the why behind the appointment
I think a big reason why things fall to the wayside, or items get pushed to the bottom of a never ending list, is that we forget why it's important to do it. I did not care about my physical fitness really, until I was forced to. At the end of 2015, I was doing the every day, routine task of putting my 2 year old in her high chair. I lifted the 18 lbs sweetheart of a girl out of the chair and because I did not lift using proper muscles, I threw out my back completely. I was in agonizing pain, completely immobilized, feeling like a total failure and moron for letting myself get so out of shape. That was the straw that literally broke the camel's back for me, and I was reminded if I don't take care of my health, I can't be there for my family. So whether it's being present in your kids' lives when they need it most, or making time for a coffee with an old friend, always remind yourself why these things are important and the benefits that come from keeping these appointments,
3. Delegate, automate, delete
I utter these three words almost daily as I am constantly reviewing the processes in which I do things. Because I have 5 kids, and I really want to be present to them as much as possible, I delegate a lot. Anything that can be automated with technology I automate, and anything that just does not need to happen anymore I delete. Some practical tips from my life include:
– Delegate: In my business I use this filter to determine what gets delegated: what am I not good at / is some else just as good or better than me at this? In my life these include accounting, anything related to my website aside from writing blog posts, shopping for products for styling days, graphic design, anything related to web marketing except fo the creation of the actual content. In my home life I have delegated house cleaning and laundry, still trying to figure out a grocery shopping option that isn't super costly (I just learned you can shop for groceries online and pick them up at Walmart in the GTA- next on my list of things to try to save me time!)
– Automate: The way in which I book and take payments for my 2-hour design consultations is now automated. I am currently figuring out gmail tags that allow you to forward specific kinds of emails off, like invoices, directly to my accountant. My trainer and I work out at the same times every week, so I don't have to think about it too much. I have a friend who puts people into his calendar so he remembers to call them and stay in touch every other month. Love this "automated" approach to staying in touch with friends.
– Delete: In my life, we keep the weekends pretty commitment free if possible to give ourselves tons of margin for unexpected plans. I say no to projects that won't fit within the number of hours I want to work. We are selective in the number of activities our children participate in. I limit the number of media previews or other work appointments in the evenings which is precious family time to me.
These are some practical ways I strive for balance- I would love to know some of your strategies in the comments below. And special thanks to Anna With Love for the shot above with my third child, and an exciting batch of photography for some new content I am creating on motherhood and balance. #excited #staytuned